Once he was the Chief Justice of Lanka. Bewigged in ermine and frocked in purple. Enthroned on the supreme bench of the land as the fount of justice, the mountain source from which the Nile of all Lanka’s laws flowed.  The final arbiter of the nation’s sacrosanct laws, whenever a conflict of high import arose. [...]


The two Silvas in Punch and Judy show: Hulftsdorp Sarath and Beliatte Mervyn

Former Chief Justice Sarath Silva stands accused of violating the bar of legal practice for judges after leaving the supreme bench

Once he was the Chief Justice of Lanka. Bewigged in ermine and frocked in purple. Enthroned on the supreme bench of the land as the fount of justice, the mountain source from which the Nile of all Lanka’s laws flowed.  The final arbiter of the nation’s sacrosanct laws, whenever a conflict of high import arose.

But much water has flowed under the Pons Asinorum — the Asses’ Bridge — since then.  And the fall of the former Chief Justice Sarath Silva from his exalted state of grace to tumble down to a derelict ignominious state must give rise to alarm and needs retelling — if only for the everlasting benefit of the young ones — as a warning of the sad, contemptuous ghastly fate that await those who rush to compromise their principles for expediency.

That the life and present times of this  Silva present a tragic tale with a moral message: That silver locks do not represent wisdom: that high office, however fancifully adorned in scarlet, does not necessarily spell perpetual infallibility.

Alas, in Hulftsdorp Silva’s case, it has not been so. He shares the same Punch and Judy box with another Silva: Beliatte’s Mervyn Silva, who hails from the alien area across the Benthara river divide from which terrain wise forefathers have warned the rest of Lanka, not even to entertain a kitten which has still not opened its eyes.

In Biblical terms Sarath Silva’s fall  may even be referred to as the fall of Archangel Lucifer from the Kingdom of God to mourn not his banishment from heavenly grace but to gloat in exile upon his own his pathetic plight and take satanic delight in declaring his stiffened will to wreak vengeance and wage war on God Almighty  who. “Sole reigning, holds the tyranny of heaven. “

MERVYN SILVA: Former minister now turned a blowing hot, blowing cold supporter and foe of the Rajapaksa family whenever the mood takes him

And mutter to his fallen namesake Mervyn Silva, this Beelzebub, who needs no introduction, “What though the field be lost, all is not lost. The incorrigible will to serve the nation’s craving to have not one but two to keep the people amused by our occasional comic ranting, is still with us. For a mind on its own can create a heaven of hell or a hell of haven.  And help keep us in the public spotlight and thus assure us, though pronounced dead, we are still alive and kicking in the dustbin.”

Though Sarath is Sarath and Mervyn is Mervyn and though the twain may never have met, one common bond ties them together and holds them on track as twin trains  of thought, albeit the direction to their common destination maybe through different idiosyncratic routes

Both are confirmed and committed full time publicity seekers at heart, who mind not in the least to work overtime and spend the midnight hour in drafting the most outrageous things to say which they know for sure will make the morning news.

Even though their latest expressions of their ever changing loyalty, their ever vacillating  stance, their shifty opinions writ on shifting sands to be washed away the following day by their own waves of a different froth and foam, invite media criticism and naturally attract public  odium, these Two Silva’s luxuriate lapping it up, like chameleons do, poised still in statuesque sucking up the sunshine whilst it lasts. For the bliss it brings them to be the focus of newly created self-serving attention. The new selfie shot of their latest twisted twitter.

And, though they maybe poles apart, one a lawyer, the other wearing the political knuckle duster, one common purpose has bound  them together to deliver their own brand of justice their relative positions of power and office had rendered unto them, according to the impulses of their own political needs and urgings. And both have slammed knockout punches against the Lankan public which has gone unquestioned and unchallenged during the previous regime, merely because it served the interests of their political masters to have them do their work. And which must be questioned and challenged now.

One Silva who, whilst seated upon the brimstone stool of justice, and breathing the alpine air of Hulftsdorp Hill’s unpolluted ozone which his respected predecessors had left undisturbed,  prevented the Criminal Investigative Department from carrying on with their investigation into the controversial Helping Hambantota case to seek whether Mahinda Rajapaksa had instead helped himself to 80 million bucks that came from sympathisers abroad to ease the plight of those who had fallen victim to the Tsunami tragedy in December 2004.

In an in interview dated August 21, 2011 with senior journalist of the Sunday Times Chandanie Kirinde of the Sunday Times whom possessed the merit to win a Best Journalist of the Year award at the Editor’s Guild Award ceremony last month.

Q: You headed the Supreme Court Bench that heard the “Helping Hambantota” case where there were allegations of misappropriation of public funds directed at the President? Do you regret the judgment given in this case?

His answer: “The Helping Hambantota case came soon after Mahinda Rajapaksa was declared the candidate for the 2005 presidential election. An investigation had been started on a complaint made by UNP MP Kabeer Hasheem that Mr. Rajapaksa had defrauded Rs. 70 million of tsunami relief funds.

SARATH SILVA: Former Chief Justice now allegedly turned legal counsel to former president Rajapaksa

“Mr. Hasheem had no personal knowledge about this but the basis of his complaint was a newspaper report. The Police had started investigations in the most suspicious circumstances and within a few hours their report was forwarded to the Attorney General who said there was a prima facie case. At this point Mr. Rajapaksa invoked the jurisdiction of the court alleging he was being politically framed.

“He feared that he would be arrested and remanded and thus deprived the opportunity to contest the presidential election. So in that situation we directed that this investigation could not proceed until the Supreme Court further heard this matter to prevent him from being arrested and remanded at the time of the presidential election.

“Had that happened he would have been immediately removed from his candidature. It was a case of the criminal procedure code being used to frame a political opponent. Mahinda Rajapaksa showed the court that the money that was received was deposited in an account and his secretary Lalith Weeratunga also filed an affidavit and said the money was in this account. We had no intuition to say that Mahinda Rajapaksa was a hugely corrupt person and certainly there were no allegations of corruption against him at that time.

“This was a political vendetta between Mahinda Rajapaksa and from what I see the then President Chandrika Kumaratunga. I would still hold that judgment if I had to give it all over again.

“There was no question of embezzlement of that money. The President has had the benefit of the due process of the law on several occasions including when he was arrested and remanded for murder and allegations of corruption. I have said this before.”

If that was indeed his judicial view, then why the repentance later when he, in an interview with the BBC Sinhala Service ‘Sandeshaya’ on October 18, 2014, publicly apologised to the nation over the Supreme Court verdict delivered by him with regard to the  Helping Hambantota case in 2005,  where Mahinda Rajapaksa was accused of embezziling 80 million from the Helping Hambantota Aid project, thus releasing the then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa from being braced with manacles and let loose to go for gold and contest for Lanka’s presidency.

He made the apology for the BBC to broadcast his conduct unbecoming as a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court worldwide when he bit the dust and said:

“When considering all these, I wonder whether the Helping Hambantota case was true or not. A serious doubt is raised. Therefore, I must apologise to the nation and ask their forgiveness.

“I think I have a doubt as to whether that decision was correct or not. Back then, we presumed that he (Rajapaksa) would never misuse such an amount of money. But when considering the rampant corruption that has come into the limelight at the present, it is apparent that this is a ‘habit’ of his.”

So why the abject confession, garbed in the coarse cloth of the penitent? Which stripped of the last string of his vestige and exposed him naked?

Why did he, in 2014, have to go down on his knees — a former Chief Justice, mind you — and confess that he had acted out of political motives and beg the nation to forgive him for his supreme transgression and revealed to the world at large his judicial judgments were heavily tainted and tarnished by the lacquered varnish of his then existing  political creed and that it was the touchstone of his legal opinion, dressed up in drag as being the law of the land?

Until then, no chief justice has ever apologised for a verdict he had delivered in the past.  Probably, no one had to, for the judgments they delivered would have been given devoid of politics and based on law. Sarath Silva’s apology was an instances unheard of, in the history of Sri Lanka’s judiciary and a big black blot on its undisputed and unsullied reputation as being the Temple of Justice tarnished by a political poosari holding pooja to light the hopes of a presidential candidate achieve his dreams of winning the crown .

Now, for the moment, shall we shelve this upper crust Sarath whose shelf life has long expired without him realising it but who tries to revive anew the staleness of his legal loaf  to its former crispness by burning it in the furnace of controversial fires; and focus, instead, on the other Silva, namely low life Mervyn who also carried the baton and held his own to be the Chief Justice of the street and summarily dispensed his sense of justice in his own one man dingo court according to the precedents sets by Lanka’s kings of yore.

While Hulftsdorp Silva played Tsar on the hill, down south Beliatte Mervyn acted as the Vizier of justice on the street enforcing his own set of laws concerning crime and punishment with reference to none.

To cite a striking example which is still ever green in public memory and remains vividly etched in its collective conscience, his brave heroics enacted before the media’s television cameras when surrounded by his ministerial bodyguards, he ordered a poor Samurdhi official to be tied to a tree and subjected to humiliation and grave pain of mind and physical discomfort merely because he had turned up late for work.

This was just one instance of Mervyn’s dispensation of summary justice. In the long litany of the many instances where he ran amok, two will suffice to illustrate the principal enforcer of Rajapaksa law on the street. One, when he stormed with a mob the Maharajah owned Sirasa television station down Dawson Street in Colombo 2.  The other, when he stormed on his own the people-owned Rupavahini where, for once, he got his just deserts  assaulted as he was by the infuriated employees and had to flee the scene under police escort.

But blessed as he was by the caliphs at the Rajapaksa court, his word was law on the street, and no legal consequences ensued as it would have naturally followed  if such outrage  had been committed by anyone else who was not a Rajapaksa stooge, a Rajapaksa sacred cow.

Both Silvas sought refuge in religion when they lost their political fiefdoms to enforce their own brand of political justice according to their own political bent at the given hour of their own practical advancement.

Sarath Silva, who was elevated to the judiciary’s topmost slot by former President Chandrika turned tables when the winds of change blew the advent of the Mahinda tsunami. But he, the matchmaker and best man of Mahinda’s marriage to Shiranthie, was to betray Mahinda, too, and chose to cast his lot with Mahinda’s bitter foe, General Fonseka and spoke volumes on his behalf.

But after Mahinda triumphed and Fonseka was jailed and then later released, this former chief justice, who begged the nation’s forgiveness, turned circle to become the nation’s most pious Chief TV Buddhist on the Buddhist Channel from which pulpit he delivered his weekly sermons on the Abhidharma, expounding it to a mesmerised audience who had no inkling of the deep meaning of the third basket in the Buddhist Tripitaka except to stare and wonder how such a small head as Sarath’s could hold all he knew.

He was preaching to the common Buddhist lot who haven’t the foggiest of the third book in the Buddhist canon, expounding its deep and complex meanings to an audience still in Buddhism’s kindergarten,  busy debating the five precepts and observing it as a ritual with another three ‘sils’ thrown in on Poya days without realising that the five precepts, though the Buddha urged his followers to adhere, formed the foundation of a harmonious society, and predated the Buddha’s advent and were, and still are, the very basis of law.

He was in that unique position on television’s altar where the preacher did not understand what he preached and the preached did not understand what was preached except to say ‘sadhu, sadhu’ at sermon’s end, in the same manner Sarath Silva had interpreted Article and Clause of the Constitution and held it as Daniel’s Judgment to a public who, ignorant of the law, perforce must place their trust and bestow their faith on the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice. And have no choice but to accept his final say, his final word as the word of God and then say ‘Sadhu, Sadhu’ or so be it at its end.

Alas, the same cannot be said of the down south Mervyn Silva.  He does not have within him the intellectual prowess of his clone, the smooth and suave, the savviness of a pseudo-intellectual mind blaster. He, too, was the upstart from south of the border wagging his tail, at Rosmead Place Colombo 7, faithfully tailing Anura Bandaranaike’s  footsteps at every turn, twist  and event. Then turned tail and bit the hand that had fed him and joined the Mahinda coterie and, after a period of nearly eight years of the high life in the Rajapaksa kennel, was suddenly booted out and denied his daily bone. He, too, whilst turning again the Rajapaksa’s, turned to religion. Though he, whilst possessing the gift of the gab in abundance and the appealing Sinhala idiom and catchy phrase ever ready on his foul tongue.

But what he lacked upstairs, he made do from the heart. His ingenuity was such he built a temple in Kelaniya, dedicated to the Preserver in the Holy Hindu Triumvirate Lord Vishnu and offered  the people not the intellectual banana his counterpart in high office dealt to make the public slip on his  plantain peel of judgments but the whole fruit platter of a ‘pooja vattiya’ of faith.

Then, of course, behind the white upasaka cloth  Sarath Silva draped around him as he became the born again Buddhist evangelist and behind the Brahmin’s poona nula’ that Mervyn hijacked to put around his neck  amidst the gold chains he wears , there is another common trait,  a golden thread  that binds both — though yet again the carat is different.

The private lives of public men are a fit subject open to public discussion, especially in the case of the former chief justice turned chief TV Buddhist, turned from being Chandrika fan to Mahinda lackey, turned again from being anti-Mahinda to pro-Sarath Fonseka supporter and now who is back in the saddle and made Piggott to ride the Rajapaksa horse out of the stable to the winner’s enclosure.

Not a bad record, is it, for a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Lanka, self-confessed maverick who trespasses beyond his judicial ambit.

As for Beliatte’s Mervyn, in an attack on a politician who had no children from his marriage, he said, in his typical fashion: “This nerd cannot even produce a child. See me. Not only do I have children of my own at home in Beliatte but also have children next door, in my neighbours’ homes.”

What a southern son of the soil stud he must be? What’s his secret? Southern Mee kiri? But as a warning, though he may have taken the biblical command to its extreme extent and not only loves his neighbour but his wife, too.

As it is said, the difference between knowledge and belief is that the mother knows the child is hers whereas the father can only have the belief that the child is his.

And whilst Mervyn maybe battling a psychological war of doubt over knowledge and faith which perhaps may have caused his temporary retreat to silence, it has now emerged that Sarath Silva, on the other hand is actively engaged, behind the scenes, in not only being the resurrected fan of Mahinda Rajapaksa but has already joined the ‘Helping Mahinda to run again for the presidency’ and become his legal advisor. A familiar role, no doubt, for him to play.

But last week his presence at the official residence of the former president Mahinda Rajapaksa down Wijerama Road in Colombo 7 whilst Rajapaksa was being questioned by the CID as to the call he had received from Karu Jayasuriya over the Keith Noyhar incident, and his alleged interjection and active participation as a legal advisor has raised the question whether he had violated the constitution which bars judges of the Appeal and Supreme Court from engaging in legal practice whatsoever upon ceasing to be a judge.

Sarath Silva will probably come up with an answer that he was present at Mahinda’s residence not as his legal advisor but that he had only dropped in as an old friend unannounced and unaware that the CID had an appointment to meet the former president.

Be that as it maybe, isn’t it rather shabby for a former chief justice to have been present and to have allegedly interjected on Mahinda’s behalf? As the former chief justice of Lanka he must well know what he may have told hundreds who came before him for judgment that ignorance of the law is no defence. And well versed with the subject, don’t you think that he should have made his excuses and left the Rajapaksa residency rather than risk bringing the whole legal edifice into contempt even as the former Minister and Mahinda crony Mervyn has served to bring the Diyawanna House into contempt whilst he was there and even now when he is out?


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